A review of the Icebox Radio Theater’s production of Peanut Butter & Tofu on Jewish Rye.
By Andrew Librizzi.
Adapted for radio by Jeffrey Adams.
Sound Stages podcast, December 27, 2005 – January 17, 2005.
Do you believe in miracles?
In December 2001, Daniel Ekuchukwu, a pastor of a Nigerian church, was in a fatal car accident. For several days, so the story goes, his wife refused to accept his death. She insisted his body be transported to a church in Onitsha. They laid him on a table downstairs, the preacher conducting services above oblivious to these goings on. Then they noticed the corpse twitch. Then it breathed. Then Daniel opened his eyes, sat up, and leaned on one of the men, by now doing everything they could to revive the once-dead corpse.
This story has circulated the world, being retold in innumerable variations. Sifting through the variations is as difficult as validating it. But that doesn’t matter to those who believe the story. There’s something deep within the human soul that longs to believe miracles still happen.
And so will you, after you listen to Peanut Butter & Tofu on Jewish Rye, a play written by Andrew Librizzi and adapted by Jeffrey Adams for the Icebox Radio Theater. The family will want to gather round the computer, or MP3 device, to listen to this hour-long radio drama, which was released last month in four episodes of the Sound Stages podcast.
Robert (Gene Gee) is a no-nonsense investment banker. Lizzie his wife (Kellye Remus) is born-again badgerer with a pasted-on smile so sweet it would make Buddha himself lose his temper. They’re already late to Robert’s boss’s New-Year’s party, when a bum gets in their way, literally. Then their lives change forever.
Gabe, the bum, is played by Jeffrey Adams, who also directs and hosts the series. And yes, that’s Gabe, as in…
Most Spiritual Fiction seems more designed to score evangelism points, rather than tell a good story. Even if you have a theme, even if you have something to say, you have to put the story first. Peanut Butter & Tofu on Jewish Rye puts the story first. Theology, such as it is, is just there to tell the story, like the characterizations and other plot devices. As a result, this story manages to moralize without getting preachy, because the characters are real, their conflicts are real. Their beliefs are real to them. And the magic is real, too. It’s all part of the same thing. And in a twist of fate and faith that will make you cry harder than the movie Ghost did, you’ll end up believing in the supernatural, too, or at least wishing you could.
The story is targeted at a Christian audience. But it is told well enough that anyone who enjoys a good story should enjoy this one. All you have to do is accept that Lizzie believes what she says, and she’s so annoying about it, that’s very easy. But that’s part of her character, and it turns out to be part of her charm. You also don’t need to be well-versed in theology in order to understand the story, as there’s no theology to speak of, except what is necessary to tell the story. (I’m trying desperately hard not to spoil it, as this is one story that deserves not to be spoiled.)
A small note: At the end of part 3, I got confused. I didn’t know what was happening, why she did that. It seemed so unlike her. And why did he react the way he did? Nothing made any sense. But hang on until part 4; all will be explained in short order.
And by the end, the title will make sense, too.
The Icebox Radio Theater’s production of Andrew Librizzi’s Peanut Butter & Tofu on Jewish Rye was recorded April 30, 2005 at KBHW Studio-3, International Falls, Minnesota. It was aired December 27, 2005 through January 17, 2006 on the Sound Stages podcast.